While a conference title might not be in the cards for Hillsboro and Litchfield this season, Monday's South Central Conference tilt between the two rivals felt as if bigger implications were on the line than just bragging rights.
The finish of the game would do nothing to take away from that feeling as Hillsboro pulled out a 2-1 overtime victory over the Lady Panthers at the Hillsboro Sports Complex.
The first half would see both teams go scoreless, with Litchfield controlling most of the possession, but Hillsboro getting better chances on net on the counter attack.
Those chances finally paid off for the Toppers seven minutes into the second half as Aubry Ruppert made a run deep into Litchfield territory and drilled a hard shot to the inside corner of the far post to give Hillsboro the lead.
The goal provided a sense of urgency for the Lady Panthers as they pressured to get the equalizer in enemy territory.
With 14:05 to play in the game, Litchfield was awarded a free kick after a foul 25 yards away from the goal. Karly Kruse would take the set piece and knocked a beautiful shot inside the far post to tie the game at 1-1.
Now, with the sense of urgency shifting to the home team, Hillsboro tried desperately to get back on top. Three minutes after Kruse's goal, Karli Mackey put a hard shot on net that looked destined for the goal. At the last moment, Litchfield's Allison Marburger threw herself in front of the shot, which bounced off the Purple Panther defender and out of harm's way.
Litchfield would also have a solid chance in the final moments off another free kick, but Abbi Jett made a nice save to keep the score tied.
In the first of two ten-minute overtime periods, Hillsboro would find a way to get back in front. Rupert would take a corner kick with just under a minute to play and Lexi Lusk would get a head on the cross. The shot would deflect off a Litchfield player and find the back of the net, making the score 2-1 in Hillsboro's favor.
The goal for Hillsboro now was to hold off the hard-charging Panthers, who were desperate to keep their chances alive. In the final seconds of the game, Jett made a diving stop to turn away Litchfield's last best chance and preserve the win for the Toppers.
The win moved Hillsboro's record to 10-6-1 on the year and 4-2 in the South Central Conference. Litchfield's record moved to 8-6, with a 2-4 mark in the SCC.
Both teams had games called off on Tuesday, with Hillsboro's game versus Staunton and Litchfield's game versus Gillespie postponed due to the wet weather. Litchfield also cancelled their game with Auburn on May 1, which was to be the long-delayed championship of the Panther Classic. Both teams will share first place honors instead.
If the weather relents, Hillsboro will play at Decatur St. Teresa on Thursday, May 2, while Litchfield is scheduled to be in Greenville on May 2, and at home against Jerseyville on May 3, for senior night. Hillsboro's senior night was to be on Tuesday, but will instead be on Monday, May 6, against Staunton.
Hillsboro vs. Southwestern
Prior to the win over Litchfield, Hillsboro picked up another SCC win, beating Southwestern 4-1. The Toppers would get goals from Tess Saathoff, Grace Anders, Aubry Rupert and Lexi Lusk, with Rupert, Peyton Sarsany and Sammi Matoush collecting assists for Hillsboro.
Abbi Jett would earn the win in goal for the Toppers, allowing just one score in Hillsboro's ninth win of the season.
April 26 at Hillsboro
Litchfield 0 1 0 0 1
Hillsboro 0 1 1 0 2
Scoring: Litchfield - Karly Kruse 1; Hillsboro - Aubry Rupert 1, Lexi Lusk 1.
Records: Hillsboro (10-6-1, 4-2); Litchfield (8-6, 2-4).